Set 23 2012
Three years ago this month I posted a note here on Blog Sedes (Feira da Luz – Future Saudades) that some might remember. For reasons that I cannot recall, I failed to make my annual visit to the event in 2010 and ’11, but I got back into my earlier rhythm yesterday, and feel that an update is of some interest.
I went straight to the closest charcoal grill and got my courato sandwich, for which I was expecting to pay more, of course. No surprise there… I had to cough up 2 euros. In 2009 I paid 1.50 for the identical item. We strolled around and detected – among the noticeably fewer vendors – that there was only one installation selling basketry. I found a laundry hamper essentially identical to the one we bought three years ago, and to my surprise, it was cheaper. What we bought in 2009 for 30 euros we could have taken home last night for 27.50. Now that is an interesting thing, and I am curious about the dynamics driving it – but I will offer no speculation amid the many factors that are surely at play in the current economic turbulence. My wife observed that most of the activity was at the East side of square – furthest from the Colégio Militar – with quite a buzz around the knock-off purses and shoes and two watches for 5 euros. Elsewhere in the largo, there was a lot of looking and touching, but not so much money flowing that I could see.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the unmistakable paucity of vendors is the ongoing construction in which the Largo da Luz is getting a complete (and in my opinion, unneeded) makeover. The Camara or someone is spending a clearly hefty sum on this project, and if it is ever completed (been going on for what seems a very long time), the place will be unrecognizable to those who knew it in earlier days. The familiar spaces and contours have been blitzed – erased and replaced: the erstwhile stream-bed cobblestones and the gently undulating (watch your step) pavements replaced by the cubical tesserae and straight, level lines of calçada Portuguesa – and lots of it so far; the splendid old gnarly trees around the periphery replaced by nothing; while the interior of the square is still an unknown zone… fenced off, unfinished works in progress. Who knows what “renovation” will emerge at the end of the day in there.
My posting of 2009 was about the saudades for the vanishing feira. Unexpectedly, this year’s post is more about saudades for the space itself – another element of Lisbon’s architectural and landscape heritage that has disappeared. Whenever the overhaul is finished, I suppose the area’s new lines will be sharper and meet at right angles, and the whole place will be easier to walk on and see through, with fewer trees and less grass. Still, I’m not sure that any of that is really an improvement over what was there before, and what had been maturing for generations. I surmise that the sewers running beneath the largo’s streets have been upgraded, and no doubt that is a good thing, but I wonder if it might have been possible to achieve that benefit without so much devastation to the surface landmark itself. No matter now, though… it’s history. The planners and their crew have “made history,” although sadly, not in the sense I would prefer. The Largo da Luz that we all remember is gone, and it won’t be coming back.
And the feira is going… going…